You Will Die by That Same Sword

The salesperson asks their prospective client, “What would it take for me to get all of your business?” The prospective client replies, “I don’t really have a relationship with anyone at my suppliers anymore. You’d have to beat my existing rate.”

Then the prospective client proceeds to tell the salesperson the rate so that they can receive a lower price. Not substantially lower, but just enough to move the business. The salesperson gets approval to beat the rate and does. A deal is a deal, right? What could possibly be wrong with this scenario?

A Swift and Certain Sword

If you can win your prospective client’s business simply by beating their existing price, what do you think will happen when they are offered a lower rate by one of your competitors? Why would you believe that they wouldn’t drop you for a lower priced competitor just as quickly as they dropped the provider before you?

This is how you become a commodity. This is how you lose your margin. This is the slipperiest of slippery slopes.

This is not effective salesmanship.

First, the agreement to reduce the price presumes there is no greater value that might be created. By failing to explore a greater level of value creation, the salesperson has failed their new client, they have failed their company, and they have failed themselves.

Second, they have confirmed in their new client’s mind that the only value that might really be created is around a lower price. They have reinforced the client’s belief that they are buying a commodity and that they should be treated as such.

But the final failure is worst of all. Did you catch it?

All Things Being Unequal

The client said: “I don’t really have a relationship with anyone at my suppliers anymore.”

So, what does that mean that the prospective client found valuable enough to pay more to obtain?

What does it say about his willingness to pay more for a different level of value creation?

What does the question suggest is the key component to that higher level of value for which he is willing to pay more?

What, then, should our salesperson have responded with when her prospective client suggested she could have the business if she beat the current provider’s price? She might have said: “I could lower your rate, but I don’t think that’s the right answer here. Instead, I’d rather make sure we build the right solution for you and that means making sure we build the right relationship. You may no longer have a relationship with your current provider, but you will have a relationship with me. I’ll make sure we deliver and that you get your money’s worth.”

If you are willing to win on price alone, then you have to be willing to lose on price alone. There is always someone, somewhere, who is willing to beat your price to obtain the business. If you aren’t willing to create more value, you aren’t worth paying more to obtain, then you can expect to be commoditized. In fact, you are causing the commoditization.


When should you compete on price?

Should you take a prospective client’s business if the only value you create is a lower price? How much of an obstacle to changing providers does lower price is created by lower price alone?

How valuable are relationships when it comes to winning and price? How does the relationship translate to something worth paying more to obtain?

Is it always necessary to match or beat your competitor’s price to gain the business? What value then does the salesperson create?

Join my weekly Newsletter or apply for membership in my exclusive Inner Circle Mastermind Group.

Subscribe to my weekly podcast In the Arena.



  • Michele Price

    I love how you give great sales lessons in ways that anyone can understand and put into practice.

  • Leanne HoaglandSmith

    There is a new book entitled “A Seat at the Table” by Marc Miller and the book’s purpose is to discuss value. Many sales people, in my opinion, do not understand value because they look at value from their perspective and not the perspective of the potential client.  My third sales buying rule is “People buy on value unique to them.” President at ABC Co. may have an entirely different value from President at XYZ even though they are purchasing the same solution.

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith

  • Joe Sonne

    This is spot on advice. Thanks to @TobeyDeys for pointing me to this article.

  • Peter Fuller MBA

    I love your stories :)

    I always tell sales reps that if they only compete on price then they will end up working for nothing.

    Once you obtain the client keep the client by becoming invaluable.


  • Lisa Petrilli

    Boy do I wish you were advising the sales force I used to work with when I was running marketing at an F500 company! They were always calling and asking for approval to lower price, and they and the sales managers were always upset when I pushed back. :)  Loved this post – thank you, Anthony!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Lisa! You were right to push back. And if I know you, you did with a smile on your face (and unrelentingly)! 

  • Caio Yazigi

    I agree totally with you.
    I think one of the best competences the salesperson need to have is being a very good listener, in this case if he/she paid attention in the signal that the customer send to him/her ” I don’t really have a relationship with anyone at my suppliers anymore. ” he/she could increase the relationship with the customer offering better service, more presence and perhaps an increase in price due to better care.

  • salesjobs

    never ever compete on price…leave that to retailers

  • Pingback: – The Blog Library

  • Pingback: The Prickly Issue of Pricing « Marketing Wisdom for the 21st Century

  • Pingback: Nine Reasons Your Customers Are Leaving You And What To Do About It « Marketing Wisdom for the 21st Century